HOMESTEAD, Fla. — What Elliott Sadler lacked on the results sheet Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he and his JR Motorsports No. 1 team made up for with a heck of a retirement party.
Sadler raised an ice-cold can to his 24 years in NASCAR’s highest divisions, sharing a toast and warm embrace with his crew on pit road after Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series finale. The scene was reminiscent of last year’s Homestead send-off for his team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who transitioned to NBC Sports after his full-time career ended.
“I’ve got a great race team,” Sadler said. “JR Motorsports has been so good to me and I just wanted to have a toast with my guys and tell them how much I love ’em, how much they’ve meant to me and how much really they’ve changed my life these last couple of years. … I wanted to make sure they knew my appreciation.”
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The race rundown will show a 14th-place finish in Sadler’s final event as a full-time competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He lost a lap with a late-race pit stop for a vibration, opting to play it safe rather than risk an incident that might cost Tyler Reddick, his JRM teammate, in the final run to his first series championship.
Sadler’s transition to retirement is complete, and his to-do list is now filled with recreational sports with his children and potentially some recreational racing for himself. Immediately next on his schedule: Taking his kids hunting Sunday, with plans to be in a tree stand before dawn.
“It’s tough. It is. It didn’t really end the way we wanted to for our team,” Sadler said. “I’m sure it’ll hit me tomorrow, but it’s cool to see the laughter and we’ve got such a good group of guys. I didn’t know how my emotions would be, but actually I’m OK, which makes me feel good about my decision. I feel good right now. It feels right. I gave it my all.
“We came up short, but I don’t have any regrets in my career and the opportunities I had, I’ve tried to make the most of them. I’ve had long enough to pursue my dreams and what I want to do and now it’s time for me to help my kids pursue theirs.”